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When I started working in the lab, it wasn't because of love or lust, or even affection of any kind. It was about, you know, what every first job is; a stepping stone, maybe just a place to grow. It's possible (and even more literal) that I had no clue what was in store for me. . .
And there she was. We all know her (or him). It's not immediate, that feeling of warmth you get miked with the butterflies. This feeling or emotion or product of the environment is somewhat everlasting. You experience it all the time, especially when you see her (or him). My specific "her" I actually only knew of a nickname:
"Kay," she told me once, "Like okay." She had the cutest laugh and the brightest of expressions, a byproduct of her mother's genes I assume. Her father she didn't know — at least, this is what she told me.
When I first met Kay, though, it wasn't like the world had frozen over, or that time had stopped. We can list all of the possible clichés, but there's not a thing that can describe it. Actually, come to think of it, I was a bit eh about her at first. She reminded me of a crisp late Saturday afternoon by the water, just as the sun slowly sets and you have that subtle tinge of color combating against the sun. She is both fire and ice.
We are both students had picked and chosen under a fellowship to work for a highly versatile and advancing technology company called Amploor Systems, a revolutionary corporation destined to create the next step in robotics engineering. The problem? For one, their robotics and engineering teams themselves are seriously lacking, but even beyond that the company simply has no heart. If no one but the creators of the tech really cared about the tech, what does that say about the company's CEO? Or, even it's VP? Industry hungry, that's what — not to advance or assist in the future. To put a price on it.
We all have our reasons for doing something. Mine weren't in the slightest out of love at first, but I soon came to see the light. I have none other than Kay to thank for this, of course, a new lease on life. If it weren't for her, I suppose my inevitable (and upcoming) death will be in vain.
Oh yes, and we reach the sad part. Not that it's all that depressing, but an uncalled for set back in an otherwise fortunate "go at it" thus far has certainly made me a far better man. Not all of us like, or even appreciate, being human. Humanity sadly welcomes death. So, I long to be something more, something much more wholesome. If only this were a sci-fi story, I'd tell you how I lived on in the after life as some robot or "other force," but despairingly this is real life and people die. Especially when they have tumors the size of a baseball or a fist lodged into the side of their skull. Complete abandon for all hope doesn't offer any assistance, either, but like I tell all those who feel empathetic toward my debilitation: "I'll live."
I, of course, say this with a smirk, because what else can bring me humor and joy then my own sad excuse of a future?
Kay was an exception. Exceptional, too. Like I said, it took me a while to fall for her, being that we were in the same division, co-workers and all. It just wouldn't work out, at least that's what I kept telling myself. Until the contest was underway. Then, we became best friends. Others might say more than that. Me? With only mere moments left, all I can say of my dear Kay was that she eventually came to mean everything to me. So, I stopped at nothing to ensure she could be immortalized... somehow, by way of technology. No, she nor I will actually live forever. But, our love would. By God, if I have to tear down the fabric of space and destroy the laws of physics, I will. She means that much to me. If you knew her like I did, you'd feel the same, too.
If you had known her like I will have (when I take those steps to the gates of Heaven) you'd also know that Kay was absolutely in love with puzzles. I'm not kidding, puzzles of any kind; 1,000-2,000 piece jigsaws (even all of them color), Rubik's, riddles, patterns, crosswords, and (maybe) her favorite: math puzzles. I didn't quite understand it so much, but neither Kay nor I were ever really meant to be understood in the first place. I assume that's why we were on the same project division together. Kay cared about it much more than I did, but Kay was slightly more optimistic about the future of technology then I was. To be fair, she was just plain optimistic, but then again that's not fair; Kay was anything but plain.
I met a boy at the lab today.
Well, he's been around the lab for a while. I recognized him, but we finally exchanged words and there's one sad dilemma: he's as crazy as me.
He's also corny (for the sake of these memories, let' call him Jack - I forget his name *upside-down face*), but that doesn't mean he's stupid. He's goofy, but in a cute way (and most times idiotic). That's why we all love him in the lab.
By "we" I mean mostly me in a very anxiously scribbling kind of way. I don't know how I feel about him. He's nice. I guess I'm attracted to him, but I barely even know him. I don't even know his name. Does he know mine?
By "we," I do also mean us all on the lab project. That is, when he was actually working on it. I'm not exactly sure when he started, but I do know a month or so in he wasn't even passed the initial setup. He was demoted for a bit, but was brought quickly back on to our side of the building; as if he planned the damn thing! He can be so stubborn, it's honestly concerning. Again, this is what makes him so appealing, I guess. It's as if he's been set on his own agenda and accord without notice since starting here.
Or, I'm just rambling and babbling your ear off, I don't know. It's one of these dandelion questions: does he like me, does he like me not. Except, for me it was: is it on, or is it off? Every single day, our main objective was simply to ensure the system's continuity. No upgrades, but of those that were repairs, and no unofficial projects, but of those specifically designated. Along the way, each individual "prodigy," or student, learned or benefited from their specified endeavors.
Everyone but Jack. He seemed to thrive on a much freer plain of existence. You can almost see it in his eyes, a kind of listless, inattentive gleam as if he hears and sees and does what is in front of him, but that's not where his head's at.
Wherever that is, I'd love (and pay) to meet who knew. Jack was the kind of person who lost his mind for the sake of others. I don't know — I barely know him. All I do know is that I feel safe around him, and well enough to be myself. Well enough to be just as, or at least as close as possible to Jack's utter weirdness (some more polite would say "unique," but Jack was far past the unique stage.
Whatever he was up to on the side, I wanted in. I didn't even know if this was true, his little covert design time, but I smelt something fishy. Or, felt it. I can't quite decide.
I will ask him about it, that I did decide on. Until I decided not to, because I wasn't sure how I to bring it up to him. If I scare him like that, he might not even speak to me again. No, it's better if I wait for him to bring it up to me. We have grown mentally close of late. . .
What was I building? I wasn't quite so sure. Obviously, it needed to be both extraordinary, but it also have some form of functionality in the real world, otherwise it'd just go obsolete. It took me some time and it sort of dawned on me later how utterly pointless and chaotic, it all still felt in accordance to my future. It was bound time I hit the drawing board. I couldn't just ask to do this, though, as we under the fellowship can only use specific tools and such required of us. A literal drawing board and extra-creative thought processes was a completely different matter.
Now that I think of it, Ambloor never pointed out their own product-in-design. That's if what we were stationed on was even a product, per se. Upon my dimwitted self-destructive new nature, I came to a sudden conclusion that I needed to "drop back a level"; some might call it a downgrade or demotion. I, on the other hand, call it transcendence. If you, yourself, is outwardly choosing to sabotage your own career for the sake of another's happiness, why make it negative? Especially for the fact that I learned a great deal from doing it. My most important takeaway: artificial intelligence.
That simple little bit of tech mythology (almost) is in answer to both questions, or stipulations: what is Ambloor engineering? and, the key to Kay's heart.
Realistically, there was no way I was going to hatch A.I. all on my own, even if it took me years to achieve. Plus, I simply just wasn't good at it. That's Kay's expertise.
Me? I'm better at romanticizing, documenting, and philosophizing. What does that offer my dear Kay as a foreword of the ages? A lovely blueprint, for starters. And a tale for a museum, most like. I told you, Kay literally could die for puzzles, so I'm willing to take that place for her. Even more satisfying? She'll get to see her own self win the Contest, and really all she's gotta thank is me. It's a good thing I'll be long deceased by then, because I hate thank yous.
We went on a date?
I don't know, it was "friendly drinks" or whatever the saying goes. I don't Know! Uh, I'm so confused. He tells me one thing and then runs off and disappears for odds and ends of times. Frankly, I get seasick from the swiftness of his mind. I can see it in his eyes, they move like lightning. And all I can say — though I'd love to say so much more — is, "Chill out," Like what am I saying?
He just smiles and shakes his head. What did I say? It makes zero sense. It's like he knows something I don't. I want to say how much I hate it (among other things) but my mind folds back to the ever-of-import project in front of me. He — listen, he won't tell me his name, so Jack it remains — gave me one bit of advice, or maybe sarcasm, it's hard to tell sometimes: "Keep puzzling yourself."
Jack stood motionless in the cafeteria. Every single eye of all other inductee from our branch eyes him ferociously. It was as if he had told her the secret cheat code, and as if he read my mind, he added:
"Extra life, you know," he winked and like the ghost he always was, vanished.
I had believed him to be on out specific project for the remainder of the fellowship (or, at least until the Contest had ended). Neither was the case, as Jack did nothing but traverse the building. At first, it was just casual, maybe once a week. By now, he's doing switching shifts hourly. What fears I have the most swirl in understanding his mission. "What do you want to achieve?" Will he ask me to join him?
Jack looked at me then, in our quiet moment in the upper garden area of the lab. A thin, wan smile breaches his lips if not for a mere second, before he turns to face me.
"You know...it pains me most of all that we got so close and, you know, it has to end like this..."
I felt ash in my throat, led in my veins. I wanted to puke, but I was starving — and, there goes my appetite. I look at him in this moment. I give him the fiercest pair of glaring eyes his sight has ever behold (besides maybe his mother's) and I raised my voice as all frightened to death teenage girls might scream: "No! Are you...b-break..."
"No, Kay," he spoke hastily. "It doesn't have to be like that. I don't want it to be like that. I want you, all of you, always and forever." Jack set down a bouquet of flowers he had found (or, he had hidden nearby). His smile thinned if only for a mere second, before he added, "Here, these are for you." Jack moved a strand of hair slightly away from the sunlight; my eyes sparkled. "I'd only ask that you open it later..."
"What do you mean later?"
"You'll know when. You're a smart and beautiful woman. I bet you can do it." Jack already had begun walking off in a direction I knew led to no exit.
He cut me off, only in saying with a wave of his hand, "It's a puzzle. Solve it."
My real name is Ralph. Don't tell Kay, though. I hate that name. It's about that time, if you know what I mean, when time finally falls and senses disappear. Honestly, all I've been wondering about is how bad it's going to hurt — everyone keeps saying I won't feel a thing, but *shrugs shoulders* who knows?
I'm ready. I don't think Kay is, not in the slightest. She hasn't talked to me much. I wonder if she opened the damn box already. I told her not to, but she's one of a kind, that girl. She'll have all of the necessary information. I ensured that all the data and research could also be both correlated to her, even though I'm sure some of my own research will surface, which is fine. Can't have her getting all the credit, now can I?
I have to say, it's been fun (except for these past few pain-ridden weeks). I have a rough road still ahead (I haven't even left the driveway), but I still had to see what was to become of the beautiful flower that was far too lovely for me to hold. This is why I designed an artificial heartbeat. It's like rhythm, the missing key, melody, if others prefer. Ambloor would have no choice but to surrender themselves mercy to Kay's eventual self-discovery, for she will automatically win the contest, thereby granting her sole proprietor of artificial intelligence.
This all, of course, will take some time (time I don't have), but in the future the groundwork I have laid and given to Kay will ensure this technology is put into the most revolutionary hands intended to upgrade humanity to the best of their abilities. Like those in-home robots I designed for Kay's creative, puzzle-minded mentality. Technically, not only because they have her name on them, but all of the tech belongs to Kay (because it's all hers). I keep having to wonder what it will all look like in the end, but honestly, now, the pain in my skull is quite literally searing.
She means everything to me, all things good and natural and beautiful. I hope my parting gift of a puzzle doesn't go unnoticed (or stolen), but I'm sure she'll take the concept to whole new feats. For now, my dear, may the force be with you. As for everyone else, I hope you all still remember me (but, also, not really).
10-20 Years into the Future:
"Welcome to the 21st Century Technological in Motion Museum. Step this way! You'll just have to be scanned. yes, all electronics, gadgets and technology is prohibited, as anything is viable to interfere with our own tech wonders. I do apologize for any inconvenience this may be. I do hope you appreciate your visit to the 21st Century of tech! It's a world of war and human evolution."
The young woman caught her breath if only for a moment before gazing around the massive, super tech-oriented atrium. This is where practically all attendees remained of the four to five people waiting to take the tour. "Right this way!" she bellowed and gestured up a small flight of stairs. As she whisked up the steps, her tourists stuck in tow.
"Here is the little known iPod touch and iPod minis," she halted before a small square Plexiglas container, where stood up two rectangular pieces of ancient technology. "Anyone know what they used to do?" Her guests either whispered in mulling it out, or simply shook their heads in unknowing.
"They could hold thousands of songs and videos within the palm of one's hand," she said this with much enthusiasm, but none of her guests seemed all that interested. In fact, there seemed to be of little interest at all in any of them, so the young tour guide moved the line along.
"Over here is the very first PlayStation, a device that allowed friends to play head to head or single player games like never before..." Her voice trailed off, finding once more a void of unenthusiastic faces among her small group. Her smile was almost overshadowed by their sullen, half-absorbed facial expressions.
"Well, what do you all want to see?" she asked in a bout of aggravation.
They, all five or so, remained cricket-silent for a vast moment before one rather shy, high pitched voice resounded from the back: "The robot."
"The robot? Ahh, good choice!" The tour guide swiveled on her heels and darted off, only to suddenly return half-smiling. "Follow me please." She led them down a steep corridor, which wound into the more central area of the building. Placed in the very middle of a cylindrical exhibit itself, which was dedicated to something called "Kuri" a small, almost statue-like robot sat obsolete after long, long years of life and over-extended use.
"This is the very first robot with high intelligence. They considered it, or more she considered, it a better option to make the bots an in-home entertainment product, rather than "Jack's" initial idea to have it as a cleaning bot. Kuri was born and named after its own creator, Kuri "Kay" Lifton, who had worked alongside a Ralph "Jack" Ambloor, the so-called man with the plan."
"Excuse me," said a small, thin woman in her late 60s standing in the far back of the group with a slinky bone-riddled hand raised. "Why was he called "Jack," and how is it that he shares the same name as the company he worked for?"
"That's my favorite question. I love it, because the story behind this little bot's origins is almost fantastical — if not altogether mystical. What Jack did for his darling Kay is immeasurable and nothing can ever outlast his showcasing of affection.
"As for his last name, well...he never necessarily worked for Ambloor; he was under the fellowship, but this mattered little to his father (the owner of Ambloor Systems), who was more than not a greedy tyrant. At the time of his son's passing, Mr. Ambloor shed no tears and said only two words: "Shoulda known. . ."
"It was Ralph "Jack" Ambloor who thought up and proposed the idea for the Contest. His dad may not have ever told him much about the company (if anything at all) but that never stopped Jack from at least attempting find out the truth. He did.
"And, because of his inevitable death, he gave it all up to Kuri." There was an ephemeral pause as a slight gust of a breeze blew through them all as if enchanted by the very story. The tour guide goes on, "He was a "Jack of all trades," that's why they called him that."
They entire group nodded in unison, staring at the little bot in front of them.
"As for Kuri, the line of in-home robots, they soared beyond belief. Now, the Kuri brand sells all kinds of robotics products and are dominating the industry. That's what designing artificial intelligence gets you." The tour guide smiled. "Anything else? No more questions? Okay, let's move on..."
After another lengthy cricket-silence unfolded around them, the tour guide slowly whisked away with only three of her five attendees. Two stayed behind, string at the little robot as if mesmerized. They were a couple, it appeared, by the looks of them. Ogling at the significance and wonder of the tech in front of them, they said nothing for a while but held each other close.
"It's...it's just a robot," the boy says.
"No, it's much more than that," the girl snaps. "It's literal love."
"Oh yeah?" he asked, gazing at it through the glass with raised eyebrows. "How so?"
"It's love. Jack made and designed the bot all for Kuri, out of love. That's something special." She solemnly gazes toward the robot. "That's something everlasting."
"I hope to love you that much one day," he says wrapping an arm around her in stride toward a different exhibit. "Enough to give you all of my heart, even if it's nothing but an artificial one."